Friday, April 30, 2021

What I’m Watching: The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 4, Episode 3 “The Crossing” (B+)

It is truly disturbing to see how Gilead treats and tortures the women it deems less than human, but there was an added dimension to it in this episode as it was portrayed as a truly religious mission, one that reminded me most of what I’ve read about the crusades. Stopping to pray and recognize the holy work that was about to be done before waterboarding June was so off-putting, as was the use of a towel with a cross emblazoned on it. Reed Birney, who did some great work as a member of the four-part ensemble in the Sundance film “Mass,” was the perfect choice to play the commander who played nice and acted as if he was June’s friend, even calling her by her real (some cultures would say Christian, ironically) name when he thanked her for help and had previously pushed a handmaid to her death off a roof like it was nothing just to get June to realize the seriousness of her situation. Ultimately, it was Lawrence who got through after being pushed to do so by Nick, challenging June’s assertion that Gilead actually cares about children. He continues to be seedy but also so right about everything, aware of his role and hers in what he described as a necessary evolution of sorts for the young fascist country. She was so disturbed by Hannah being scared of her, and it was chilling to see the handmaids found after she gave up their true location. There was an unexpected sentimentality and soap opera quality to her running on the bridge back to kiss Nick, but that’s what passes for a real relationship on this show in this horrific world that June so bitterly described to Aunt Lydia. The notion of June and the other handmaids spending their lives at a Magdalene colony where they would be visited repeatedly for ceremonies by commanders and their wives would have been a lot to take, but I didn’t expect more than an ardent, willful look from June while they were in the van stopped at the train tracks. It’s devastating that June’s decision not to strike Aunt Lydia may have delayed them enough and alerted the driver to their presence too early to cost the other handmaids their lives, but June and Janine made it over, ready to escape to some unknown fate and likely capture soon. After the slow-motion running, June recounting the names of the handmaids she came to know in that gymnasium was a masterfully powerful way to end. It was also interesting to see how Luke talked to Moira, who last episode was resentful of June, about how he was grappling with the knowledge that she knew her fate and that she was continuing to choose not to come back to him, even when she had multiple opportunities to do so. I think they would both argue that she’s doing very important work on the homefront, but that doesn’t mean it hurts Luke any less.

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